Imax CEO Says Streamers Weighing Giant-Screen Releases

Richard Gelfond  - Getty - h 2018
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"We're in active discussions with all of the streaming services about an Imax release," Richard Gelfond told an investors conference.

As Amazon and Netflix do more theatrical plays for their movies, Imax is in talks with streaming giants to super-size their releases.

"We're in active discussions with all of the streaming [services] about an Imax release," Richard Gelfond, CEO of the large-screen exhibitor, told the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference during a session that was webcast Wednesday.

Gelfond argued that while Netflix, Amazon and other streamers are increasingly working with top Hollywood talent, "there's not an opening day," especially for their tentpole releases. The exec added that the streaming business recognizes "the number one way to event-size the size [of a movie] is in Imax."

Mindful of pushback from traditional exhibitors — as when the sequel Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend in 2015 launched simultaneously on Netflix and in select Imax venues — Gefond said the large-screen exhibitor will respect the theatrical window.

"But over time, to me, it's inevitable that these big blockbusters that people are spending all this money on, are going to have a theatrical release and I think almost certainly an Imax release," he added. Gelfond also discussed his backing for AMC's Stubs A-List subscription service, which allows subscribers to see up to three movies a month in any format, including 2D, 3D or Imax.

"The closest analogy I have is, if an airline said to you, you can sit in first class and drink champagne or you can sit in the back row. So where are people going to go? I noticed from informal discussions that a lot of them are going to Imax," said the exec.

Gelfond also touted Damien Chazelle's First Man for using Imax proprietary cameras to shoot key sequences where Ryan Gosling, who plays astronaut Neil Armstrong, lands on the moon. "When he [Armstrong] lands and steps out, it's full-screen Imax. And I literally still get — my hair stands up a little thinking about it because it's so incredible, because he [Chazelle] is using that Imax screen to transform the audience and also make a point of it," the exec said.